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Gambia: Barrow takes heat from poll rivals

It’s barely a week since the official start to the election campaign in The Gambia where president Adama Barrow’s rivals have been taking pot shots at his government’s handling of the country’s affairs.Ousainou Darboe, the diminutive man widely seen as his biggest opponent for the presidency has not held back on his criticism of the Gambian leader, describing him as half-baked and incompetent to run the country for the next five years.

Prior to becoming president Barrow was a member of Darboe’s United Democratic Party which is attempting to dislodge him at the polls when Gambians go to the polls to elect a new president on December 4th, 2021.

Gambia’s third president has since formed his own political organisation, the National People’s Party and is one of the front-runners for the country’s top job.

Darboe, the man he once referred to as his Godfather has been appearing in rally after rally with thumping criticism of his now estranged prodigal son (Barrow), lampooning him as a betrayer, a clueless leader whose five years in office has caused The Gambia more harm than good.

He warned that another five years under Barrow would move the country on the precipice of a socio-economic crisis the likes of which Gambia has witnessed before. 

Perhaps sensitive to these criticisms Barrow has hit back at Darboe, lamenting why in his opinion he is being unfairly targeted by the man he had done much for including ordering his release from prison shortly after winning the presidency.

Darboe had been locked up by Jammeh for protesting the torture and eventual murder of political activist Solo Sandeng eight months before the presidential election which led to his defeat.

Barrow claimed he had “sacrificed a lot” to get Darboe closer to him culminating in his appointment as vice president, making him Gambia’s second most powerful individual before “father and son” fell out two years later.  

Aside from his estranged Godfather, Barrow also faces stiff competition from four other contenders who have not held back on criticising his style of leadership at every turn.

They all point to the government’s lack of action to improve the troubled economy, address growing crime and insecurity and stamp out corruption.

Mamma Kandeh of the Gambian Democratic Congress, came third the last time Gambians voted for a president in 2016, and was widely credited for winning votes from Yahya Jammeh, leading to his surprising defeat by Mr Barrow who was at the head of an opposition coalition.

Kandeh has warned against returning Barrow to office if Gambians are serious about improving the country’s fortunes.

There is the veteran politician Halifa Sallah of the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence who played a starring role in defusing the political tensions stoked up by Jammeh’s controversial decision to challenge the 2018 poll outcome, plunging Africa’s smallest country in a post-electoral crisis.

Sallah who made an unsuccessful shot at the presidency in 2006 at the head of a coalition of parties opposed to Jammeh is campaigning under the slogan of ending poverty and upscaling the human resource capacity of Gambians.   

The presidential race’s only independent candidate Essa Faal is riding on a popularity earned from the Gambia’s erstwhile truth commission as its lead counsel charged with investigating egregious human rights violations during Jammeh’s 22 years in power.

Faal, a wealthy lawyer of international repute is vying under the banner of justice being served to the alleged perpetrators of rights violations and rehabilitating their victims who cried foul when Barrow announced coalescing with Jammeh’s out-of favour Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction party months ahead of the next election.

Abdoulie Jammeh, the sacked director general of the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority is something of a dark horse joining the race for the presidency.

Little is known of his National Unity Party and what it represents politically, being the surprise package cleared to take part in the race for state house. 

So far Jammeh has refrained from openly criticising the Barrow administration, perhaps reserving his energy for the latter stages of the campaign. 

Whatever happens in the lead up to the polls, the first without the participation of former president Jammeh, many observers say it is an election for President Adama Barrow to lose – meaning he is the favourite to win the presidency once again.

However five other candidates stand in the way including his former political Godfather Darboe, who believes it has to be him now or never.

   



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